Tuesday, December 17, 2013

To Bey or Not to Bey: What Beyoncé's Surprise Album has Taught Us

The age old phrase goes as follows: All publicity is good publicity.

For Beyoncé it seems as though no publicity is good publicity.

As always, Mrs. Carter not only follows her own rules, but creates them. She shocked the world by releasing a surprise fifth album last Thursday at midnight.

Let's take a look at how Beyoncé played a risky PR game, yet managed to win. And did she ever win big. In a blink of the eye, the album has become the fastest selling release in the history of iTunes.

1. She's lived & learned

After much hype and hoopla, her last album was met with a large degree of disappointment from media, critics and fans alike. It's no wonder she took a complete opposite approach for this latest album, if at first you don't succeed try, try again, right? Right. Not only has she proved that she's learned from her mistakes, but that she's a savvy business woman as well. She may take risks, but as she just showed us all, they are indeed calculated ones. A large portion of PR is attributed to gaging and understanding your audience. Reacting fast is crucial to survival. She has clearly learned from her mistakes and proven that she knows very well what we want.

2. Element of surprise 

In today's digital age its extremely difficult to keep a secret. Someone either leaked that, this website posted that spoiler, or that paparazzi saw this; not to mention throwing real time apps like Vine and Twitter into the mix. The fact that she was able to keep not only the recording stage of this project under wraps, but the video process as well, is an incredibly impressive feat. The element of surprise is something that has been lacking lately, and the fact that she was able to bring it back is retro and rewarding.

3. Quality vs. quantity

The self titled album only has 14 songs (yet 17 videos) and every single one rocks our socks off. Not often do you hear an album where each song is better than the previous one. It is clear that on this album she simply let the content speak for itself. This could've proven to be dangerous if the content wasn't up to snuff. Quality first, promotion second. It makes our jobs as PR professionals extremely difficult if there isn't quality in the products we have to promote.

Regardless about how you feel about Queen Bey, it is impossible to ignore that she knocked it out of the park on this one. This tactic is one that requires exacting execution and can only be pulled off by a superstar such as herself. Sorry to burst your bubble, but if your garage band drops a secret album it's pretty safe to say that it will remain a secret album. We can't even imagine how many moving parts were involved in this stunt, and in order for it to be effective it would have to pulled off ***flawlessly.

That being said, some takeaways for our less famous friends can include:

-Don't be shy to switch it up! Try new things. Out with the old and in with the new. Our generation has the attention span of a fly and is always looking for innovative ideas.

-Keep your secrets to yourself. There is so much temptation for competition out there. Nowadays, you are exposed to everything and anything online, thus making it incredibly easy to be influenced by others. To shut the world out and focus on your art is both a rare and necessary practise. Turn the tables on yourself and turn your attention inward instead of outward.

What do you think of Beyoncé's strategy? What other lessons would you add to our list?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Biggest PR Wins of the Week

We all know the saying, you win some, you lose some. Well, some won bigger than others in their communications efforts this week. Take a look at who we think nailed it as of late.

1. WestJet 

If you haven't seen (and shed a tear over) WestJet's latest promotional video then you must live under a rock. This video immediately went viral upon it's release on December 8th; already reaching over 15 million less than a week later. It has gained WestJet media attention all over the world, which definitely qualifies as a PR win. The short ad features lucky passengers on a flight from Ontario to Calgary meeting with jolly ol' Saint Nick himself, who was, obviously, in a blue Santa suit. Can you say branding? After their quick meet and greet with Santa they went on their way. Little did they know that while they were in the air, 150 WestJet elves, err, employees, were diligently working on a Christmas miracle. Upon arriving in Calgary, they discovered all the gifts that they had asked Santa for, on the baggage wheel. You can imagine the emotions, excitement and enthusiasm that ensued. Check out the five and a half minutes of happiness for yourself and make sure to have the kleenex handy.

2. Instagram 

WestJet wasn't the only one who had busy elves working away this week. Instagram showed the world today that they too have been up to something, and that little something is called Instagram Direct. What is Instagram Direct? Think Snapchat, but well, for Instagram. It is a new component of the app that allows you to send videos and photos directly to friends, versus posting them on a public timeline. Instagram has a history of reacting quickly to any potential competitors. When Vine first started hitting its stride, Instagram responded immediately with their own version of video. When Snapchat really started gaining traction, the Instagram team when back at it and gave us Instagram Direct. Their incredibly quick turnover rate is unmatched and their constant updates are what allow them to maintain their edge and popularity. Why use 3 separate apps when you can do everything you want in one? Our (and Instagram's) thoughts exactly.

3.  Shopify

This one hits closer to home. It isn't so much of a PR win, but an overall life win. Local tech startup Shopify just announced today that they have raised $100 million in funding. Shopify started out as a few guys trying to sell snowboards, who quickly realized that the software they were making to sell said snowboards just may be more valuable. Shopify now has over 80, 000 online stores stretched across 100 different countries. They are proof that you don't have to sell out to Silicon Valley in order to be seriously successful. Shopify has stuck around in our nation's capital and is now not only a staple in the startup community, but in the entire Canadian community. They represent the ideal, yet elusive  combination of an incomparable creative community culture married with on the mark business smarts.  Kudos Shopify!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quick & Painless Gift Giving Guide for the Communicator in Your Life

A few gift ideas for that special PR person.

1. Juice for their lifeline. 

Chances are your favourite communicator has a smart phone. Chances are it's almost always dying.  One of these portable chargers would make the perfect stocking stuffer for that someone special.

2.  A mug with words. 

We drink oodles and oodles of  coffee, and then some. We also are kind of nerds about words. A mug with any cute or clever quote is sure to put a smile on the heart and face of your communicator.

3.  Fuel for their fire. 

One word, two syllables: Starbucks. Load up a gift card for them and they will be eternally grateful. If your PR pro isn't into coffee, David's Tea is also a good option.

4. A big ol' bag. 

This one is more for the ladies. If you think your average girl lugs around a lot in her purse, than you clearly haven't met a PR girl. We need to be prepared for every and any occasion in a split second, so our bag has got to be big.

5.  Something snazzy for their office.

We suggest a coffee table book. It's a definite conversation starter, and something both clients and colleagues can enjoy. Bonus points if it's local.

Happy holidays and happy shopping! 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The PR Train Wreck Named Rob Ford

Step aside Miley, the celebrity spotlight here in Canada has shifted and the man behind it all is the infamous Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford. If you have checked the news, twitter, or turned on your TV lately than you are well aware that over the past year his reputation has been quite literally going up in smoke.

From a PR perspective, it is almost impossible to argue that there has been some method to Ford's madness, as the only constant is chaos.

What are his top communications mistake to date?

1. Confession does not  equal credibility 

Especially if said confession comes a year too late. Our belief is that honesty is in fact the best policy, especially when it comes to PR. The sooner the truth comes out, the better you can prepare for it, begin damage control and move on, as well as retain trust with your audience. Most audiences don't hold you and your brand to a standard of perfection, but of respect. These are relationships we are dealing with, after all. When you make a mistake, fess up. The public can't understand what they are not told.

2. Perplexed priorities 

The logical decision in this situation would be for him to resign. At this point there is not much that he could do to save his reputation, and for the sake of the city, resigning would be the only acceptable option. But, Mr. Ford has not only declared that he will not resign, but that he will actually run again. Sounds like a selfish suicide mission to us. His role as mayor is take care of his city first, not his ego.

3. Mixed messages 

If it wasn't a given he was smoking crack, we could've suspected it by the bipolarity of his statements. It appears that every day he has a new version of the story, making it extremely difficult for anyone to give him the benefit of the doubt or for him to retain any ounce of credibility. "This is my story and I'm sticking to it" would've been a better approach for him to take, especially if that story involved the truth.

4. Refusing PR 

It  has been said that multiple PR agencies have been in and out of the Mayor's office as of late, and that he refuses PR help of any kind. Had he settled on a fitting PR agency, they could've better prepared him to deal with such a situation and perhaps shed light on the importance of honesty and his role as mayor.

Needless to say Canada sure has had it's fair share of media attention due to this issue, and the cliché "any publicity is good publicity" most certainly does not ring true. It's a shame that this scandal has brought our usually peaceful country to the forefront of the political playground.

How would you advise Mayor Ford to proceed? Do you think there is any chance of salvaging his reputation and city?

Sunday, October 27, 2013

PR for Startups: Why & How You Should Be Doing Things Differently

PR is a crucial element to any type of business, but especially so to startups. It will make or break your success and it is important to keep in mind that you should be doing your PR differently than the brands you see on TV. They already have an established reputation and name, and you are trying to achieve that, so mimicking what they are doing in their stages of success won't work for you and your business. Your PR efforts need to be entrepreneurially tailored to your startup. 

Here are five tips for you and your emerging brand:

1. You're not Google or Apple, yet. 

A lot of startups expect huge media hits right away, and to put it bluntly...that's not going to happen. We get it, it's your baby and you are so close to it and so proud of it, of course you think the whole world should share your sentiments. And if you do your PR right, they will one day. It's ok to aim high and dream big, thats what essentially makes you an entrepreneur. You're a doer, a dreamer, you've got a fire lit under your butt and want to make stuff happen and that's what we love about you. But on the PR and publicity side, things don't move so fast and at this stage in your business (almost) any publicity is good publicity. 

2. You need to have a designated PR person. 

Too many entrepreneurs make the mistake of attempting to wear too many hats. Just because you can wear all the hats doesn't mean you should. This is true for any business, but especially for entrepreneurs. Your startup is essentially your baby and this can result in you being too close to it to be able to accurately pitch/explain it to other people. You don't want to have to deal with worrying about your next media hit or rejection, how people are perceiving your brand, etc. You are too close to your project and that's exactly where you should be.  Think of it this way, if you were applying for a job you wouldn't send your mom in for your interview, would you? Of course she thinks you are the greatest thing since sliced bread, she made you. You submit a resume, a carefully curated accumulation of your accomplishments that is (should be) factual. Think of your PR person as your living, breathing resume. 

3. Be very, very careful. 

Right now you are attempting to build your brand, so this is a kind of double edged sword. It's amazing because you have the opportunity to create and project any image that you want for your business, but if you don't predetermine what you want to put out there, then you leave the opinion up to the public who may or may not understand your business. No business should suffer a major slip up, but if, heaven forbid, it happens to Apple yes it will be tragic, but they have their already established reputation to fall back on. People will think "Yea Apple screwed up, but they are still an innovative leader in the technology industry." Your company doesn't yet have the luxury of having a recognized name/brand. These early stages will determine the future of your name, so approach them cautiously and be prepared. 

4. You're important too

Remember that it's not just about your company, your image is also important. You are the face of the company, and many times with startups their teams are usually small or nonexistent, so the public and the media will most likely be turning to you for interviews, information and more. In today's world of social media and cyberspace it is virtually impossible to avoid transparency. When people look up your brand they will look you up too. On Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, LinkedIn, everywhere. Small businesses have that personal connection and everyone will not only want to know about your company, but about you. Be active on social media and try to ensure that that your actions/thoughts are in line with those of your brand. 

5. Do this. 

Exactly what we are doing right now. Blog. Create content. Post pics. You need to give people material to learn about your company and actively putting out content will help you know your audience and converse with them. It's great to retweet this and share that, but don't limit yourself to merely sharing other's content. Create your own and get people talking about you

What PR tips would you add to our list for startups and entrepreneurs?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why Ragan's PR Daily Rocks Our Socks

Ragan's PR Daily is without a doubt one of our go-to sites for anything PR related, and we're certain that we aren't alone in this sentiment. Based on the sheer volume of shares, engagement and laughs their articles get out of us and our peers on social media, it is obvious that they are an example to follow in the world of communicating and social media. They're laugh out loud funny, informative and current; basically they are that it girl in high school that all the gals want to be best friends with and all the boys want to date.

So, why are they so awesome? Let's make a little list à la PR Daily of the top 3 reasons we love Ragan's so much:

1. To the point & on point.

As PR professionals we are used to concise writing coupled with a hectic lifestyle, and anything that takes more than a minute or two to read through might get tossed to the side. Ragan's PR Daily masters the art of the top 5 list (and even the top 10, 15, 20 etc) and keeps their information both light yet knowledgeable. The content is always relevant and is usually somehow tied into today's pop culture, thus allowing you to remain up to date not only with your field, but with the world as well. Two birds with one stone? Heck yes, PR professionals love anything that ups efficiency levels.

2. They know their place.

There is a very fine line in the social media world between being consistent and being, well, annoying. Too many companies overwhelm you through not one social network, but multiple; while others are merely wallflowers that never seem to speak up or own a voice. Ragan's doesn't feed into either of these extremes. They consistently have content, yet somehow never seem to bother or overwhelm. They are like that comforting cup of coffee first thing in the morning saying "Hey, we got you. We're hear whenever you need us, and if you need us a little later, that's ok too." They are extremely active on   Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest, but even when I miss a day or two (which doesn't happen often) I never feel completely out of the loop. A good 15 minutes roaming around the site will get you all caught up, and even if you are a regular, there always seems to be something new to discover. This is gold in the world of social media and makes Ragan's a star pupil.

3. Memes. Oh, the Memes. 

I don't know how old the people running Ragan's are but it sure feels like they are right there beside me in Gen Y. They know memes, heck, they could teach a class on memes. Always appropriate, always awesome. Their articles are always accompanied by the perfectly suited meme, acting as a teaser for whatever witty piece they have written. Let me just tell you that my Instagram feed is full of memes courtesy of Ragan's that  I only wish I had thought up first.

Basically, if you are in any PR, comms or any social media field Ragan's PR Daily will be extremely informative, and amusing to you. They are a leader in the industry and an example to be followed.

That concludes our love letter to Ragan's PR Daily
Do you have as much of a crush on PR Daily as we do? Who are your go to websites for information in the PR industry? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Public Relations vs. Advertising

In today’s society, there is a clear-cut understanding of what advertising is, while public relationsremains a mystery to many.

Advertising, as we know it, is paid space and broadcast time. There is complete control over the message, medium, and the target audience. It can be very expensive, especially if you have a big market to cover. For example, advertisers paid $2.5 billion to $3 million for a 30-second Super Bowl ad in 2010. It is now more difficult to launch a product through advertising, because consumers don’t pay as much attention as they did in the past. One reason being there is too much “clutter,” meaning consumers are exposed to several messages all at once.

Public relations is the management of communication between an organization and its publics.  It involves analyzing trends, predicting their consequences, counseling organization leaders, and implementing planned programs of action which serve both the organization’s and the public’s interest. A simple, yet brilliant example would be when IKEA sent out letters to 3445 households nearby the first IKEA to open in Croatia. The letter was more than just introducing themselves to their neighbors, and informing them of construction; it was a small example of what IKEA stands for through the form of the letter. The letter was not only its own envelope, but also a t-shirt folder, exemplifying the simplicity of IKEA furniture.

Here are a few facts on the topic to consider:

·       The fastest-growing retail chain in the world is Zara, headquartered in Spain and now operates in dozens of different countries. Zara does no advertising except for two sale ads a year.

·        PlayStation and PlayStation 2 were introduced with a fanfare of publicity and went on to become the leading video-game brand.

·       Linux, an open-source software has not advertised because no one owns the brand. Yet Linux has some 99 per cent name recognition in the high-tech community.

·       According to Interbrand and Ad Age, these are the top five brands and advertisers.

Top 5 Brands:
1. Google
2. Apple
3. Coco-Cola
4. Starbucks
5. Ikea

Top 5 Advertisers
1. General Motors ($3.3B)
2. Procter & Gamble ($2.5B)
3. Ford ($2.4B)
4. PepsiCo ($2.2B)
5. Pfizer ($2.1B)

It is interesting to note the disconnect between the top 5 brands versus the top 5 advertisers. Advertising used to be top dog when it came to businesses promoting themselves, but in today’s age of technology and internet public relations are taking on a much larger, more significant, and different role.

What is your stance on the advertising versus public relations debate? Do you deem one more important or necessary than the other, or are they equal players in the business playing field?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Social Media: the New Way to Better Your Business

Social media platforms continue to grow, adding new, fun features that both maintain its users and attract new ones. These new and old features make it easier to connect, engage, and be informed. Best of all, it’s absolutely free.

Given its zero cost and opportunities, it’s essential for businesses to be active in social media. Businesses have the opportunity to emphasize their brand, voice their values, promote items, and provide better customer service.

If you’re a business owner who still relies on word of mouth, you’ll probably (hopefully) reconsider after reading these facts below:
  • ·       Social media is the number one activity on the Web
  • ·       53 per cent of people recommend products on Twitter
  • ·       90 per cent of consumers trust peer recommendations
  • ·       Only 14 per cent trust advertisements
  • ·       34 per cent of bloggers post opinions about products and brands
  • ·       83 percent of consumers exposed to a brand’s social media presence would try the brand’s products
  • ·       78 percent of participants found that website traffic increased with as little as 6 hours per week invested in social media marketing
  • ·       More than half of marketers who have been using social media for more than 3 years say that it has helped them increase sales

Word of mouth can still get you far, but social media will surely get you further.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Make This Summer Count

If you’re a PR student, creative thinking and strong writing skills are necessary. Though, what use will they be if you’re not given the right opportunity? Sometimes despite what you know, who you know is what will help you.

I’m sure your professor has told you this many times before, along with the suggestion that you should go out there, get involved and be seen. Though, you probably had little to no time, if you were a full-time student and working like me.

And now that its summer, all you want to do is make up for lost time with friends and family. Anything school related is the last thing on your mind, even that book your professor recommended, and you love reading. When it ends, you’ll find yourself not only struggling school and work, but finding opportunities to explore your career options. Meeting the right people can offer you valuable experience and narrow it down for you.

So make the most of your summer, while lessening next year’s stress. Committing at least one day a week to either volunteering or attending a local event, will still allow time for whatever your heart desires. After all, summer break is four months long.

Here are a few tips on how to get started:

1. Social media: It’s essential you connect on at least Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Social platforms such as Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest are a plus!

2. Twitter: If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity in Ottawa, you can follow @VolunteerOttawa, or search both hastags #Ottawa #Volunteer. For events, follow @Ottawa_Events, or search hastags #Ottawa #Events

3. Ottawa Kijiji: Aside from the volunteer section, look in the tv, media, fashion section. PR internships can be found there sometimes.

4. Local blogs: Read local blogs to stay updated with local events, news and possibly an internship. Check out 613 Style and Apartment 613.

5. Business cards: You never know who you’ll end up meeting by chance, so always have business cards in hand to exchange.

 Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to volunteer or attend events by yourself. Others will find you more approachable and it’s better to step outside your comfort zone.

Good luck!

-Lisa Tanh

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What the heck is an Open Device Lab?

Those were my very first thoughts when I heard on Twitter that digital creative agency bv02 was launching one on July 11th. I immediately investigated and soon discovered that an open device lab is, well, pretty self explanatory. It is a lab, with devices, that is open to the public. Simple enough, right? The more I pondered on this, the more I came to the realization of what an incredibly innovative idea this indeed was.

Targeted towards startups and entrepreneurs, the Open Device Lab (ODL) gives businesses access to test out their website or software on a wide range of devices free of charge. Every cell phone model imaginable was there, as well as tablets, e-readers and laptops. I have to admit it was a pretty fabulous feeling to see our website simultaneously loading on over 20 different screens. The ODL does a lot more than solely allow you to admire your business's own handiwork; another entertaining game to play is to see which device loads the fastest (and the slowest).

The ODL is actually the first one in the country. There are currently 64 ODLs spread across 22 countries, that can now include Canada.

Kudos to the team at bv02 for not only a fantastic idea, but an even better execution. This is exactly what Ottawa needs to support the ever growing startup community. We will definitely be bringing our clients by the ODL. Good PR definitely includes knowing how clients are viewing your product/service digitally and adapting accordingly.

The ODL is now open for business, so swing by and see how your business is being viewed today!

Monday, July 1, 2013

613Style.com hosts Degrassi Star Melinda Shankar

It’s a Sunday afternoon, but the ByWard Market says otherwise. The market is as lively as the night before, filled with pre-Canada day celebrators. They show their enthusiasm by dressing in white and red, while waving a Canadian flag. Amongst them, are women and men dressed completely different. These women are in bold colors, contrasting the rest of their ensemble, while the men are in perfectly tailored suits.

Needless to say, there was a fabulous event going on, hidden in the heart of the market. It was the pre-launch of Miss Conception, founded by Degrassi star, Melinda Shankar. Miss Conception will be offersing services from image consulting, personal styling and shopping, to hair and makeup. 

Accompanying Shankar, were more favorites of Degrassi, Samantha Munro and Lyle O’Donohue. 613 Style hosted this event at Kinki Restaurant’s patio. It was a beautiful, Miami-like version of a patio belonging to an Asian-Fusion restaurant. There were comfy red couches you could plop down on, two private tables at the back with curtains flowing, and faux bamboo sticks on the wall, separating the event from the chaos outside.

Celebrating Shankar’s pre-launch, besides her friends, family, and co-stars, were fans, designers, photographers, and bloggers. That explains their noticeably great sense of style. Hosts made sure each of us had a chance to mingle, and take pictures with the Degrassi stars.

During Shankar’s speech, she shares her first experience with beauty. “I started competitive ballet when I was three-years old, so you can imagine how much makeup I’d have on.” Eventually, Shankar preferred to do her own hair and makeup for competitions. Through word of mouth, her talent was in demand, which influenced the start of Miss Conception.

Miss Conception’s dolls will not only offer their services in Ottawa, but Toronto, Los Angeles and New York City. They are set to launch in the fall and will work with any budget.  It’s the perfect time, considering many will need assistance for their new back-to-school look or first party of the year.

Shankar, both flawless and fabulous, will surely make Miss Conception a success. Aside from her many talents and sense of style, she’s sweet, amiable, and won’t make others feel intimidated by her stardom. It will be a dream come true to many, helping them discover their inner sense of style and confidence.

Shankar’s dress was both sophisticated and flirty. I love how her coral lipstick matches her eye shadow, yet it’s very subtle. Her sleek, high, ponytail emphasizes her youthfulness.

-Lisa Tanh